For more than a decade, Frazier's was a one-note sort of place. Granted, it was a lovely note—say, F-sharp by a mezzo-soprano—but the singer's range was limited.
"We were pigeonholed. It became sort of 'special occasion,'" says manager/ bartender Daniel Baker. In February, the restaurant closed for a makeover.
This fall, Frazier's Wine Bar started cranking out arpeggios, a one-note place no more. Depending on the night (it's dinner only) and your mood, it can feel a little punk, a little Euro, a little alt-, with a soundtrack to match. Plum walls have replaced earth tones; pendants and a bulbous yellow-green chandelier have replaced polite track lighting; provocative photographs (one set juxtaposes signs: "tattoos" and "Campus Christian Fellowship") have replaced benign paintings.
Gone too are the orderly tables and hushed aura. A note at the front, "Please Seat Yourself," invites whimsy: Tuck into a plush velveteen settee with a $34 bottle of malbec and a $14 cheese plate. Pull up to the modern bar for an $8 squeezed-to-order lemon-ginger martini and a $12 plate of veal sweetbreads over parsnip risotto and veal demi-glace. Drink exotic beers at the 10-seat farm table while passing $3–$5 appetizers like charcuterie (house-made by sous chef Rob Bland, formerly of Coquette, a fellow member of the Urban Food Group company), marinated olives or decadent fingerlings with bacon aioli.
The traditional dinner date at a regular table is still possible, with a properly coursed meal from salad to dessert (try the fiery chile relleno entrée with chipotle polenta and crème fraîche). With a little notice, head chef Albert Wojciechowski can customize tasting menus or vegetarian plates. And those who delight in the creative use of offal will rejoice at dishes such as the liver terrine and the pancreas and thymus sweetbreads. During a recent visit, a patron at the bar was heard to exclaim, "I had three organ meats tonight!"
Frazier's Cruvinet wine-preservation system works like a tap, allowing rare and valuable vintages (and everyday wines) to be sold by the glass. The menu and wine bar offerings fill a gap in the Raleigh gastronomic scene left by the closure of Ashley Christensen's Enoteca Vin. With a seasonal menu, no dish over $15 and wine sold at 2, 4 or 6 ounces, it's easy to choose your own adventure at the "new" Frazier's.